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Monday, December 11, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Polar Bears Threatened by Pesticides in Ocean

SEATTLE (CN) - Polar bears, already threatened by habitat loss from melting sea ice, face additional dangers from pesticides that cause immune, endocrine and reproductive problems, environmentalists say. Air and ocean currents carry pesticides from industrial zones to the Arctic.

There, the "lipophilic" (fat-loving) substances accumulate in fatty tissues. Since Arctic mammals have a lot of fat, they are particularly vulnerable.

The Center for Biological Diversity demands that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of pesticide registration, consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on how to manage the threatened Arctic polar bear.

The center sued the agencies in Federal Court.

As "apex predators of the Arctic," polar bears are at greatest risk. A mother bear, which fasts while nursing her cub with fat-rich milk, is essentially "injecting them with a heavy dose of contaminants," the center claims.

Pesticides have been shown to impair the immune system, interfere with fetal implantation, cause hermaphroditism and increase cub mortality, among other things.

The center wants the EPA ordered to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service over the effects of pesticides on polar bears, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The suit names 14 pesticides, including Atrazine and Diazinon, that are found in the polar bear's range. Brendan Cummings in Joshua Tree, Calif., is litigating on behalf of the center.

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